Complete Fanaticism

I'm not at the center? Wait...what?
In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus pulled the rug from under the worldview that had dominated Western thought since ancient times by contending that the earth was not the center of the universe.

Thomas Kuhn said in his book, The Copernican Revolution, that the idea that everything revolved around us had been “the basis of everyday practical and spiritual life” for centuries. So, for the average citizen, being told that the earth is just one of several planets that move around the sun, which is just one of an infinite number of stars, brought his identity under attack. Many were upset when they found themselves no longer, cosmologically at least, at the center of things.

Naturally, since the adoption of Copernicanism threatened to disrupt thinking in fields from religion and morality to art and philosophy, bitter opposition to it rose quickly—and persisted for a century and a half. The uniqueness and stability of the earth were deep-seated concepts that would not be surrendered easily. Indeed, throughout history, a number of ideas that reordered our view of ourselves first met with vehement opposition before reluctantly being accepted, as evidence supporting them became irresistible.

For centuries, Western thought has also been dominated by the worldview that the social order revolves primarily around rich, straight, Christian white men. But that idea is currently being challenged to a greater extent and from more sides, perhaps, than ever before. And vehement opposition to the change is present as always. Many in that group are upset that they are no longer seen as the immovable center of all things.

But just as Copernicus made it inevitable In the sixteenth century that the way man understood his place in the cosmos would be transformed—despite opposition and calls for the perpetuation of the existing order—it is inevitable in the twenty-first century that white men will no longer be able to stake an exclusive claim to the center of the social, economic and political universe. Calls for the perpetuation of this existing order will fade away just as the belief in an immovable earth eventually did, passing, as Kuhn said, from “an essential sign of sanity to an index, first, of inflexible conservatism, then of excessive parochialism, and finally of complete fanaticism.”

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Filed under History, People, Science, The Book I Read

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